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A letter from Kate Taber serving in Israel-Palestine
March 2015 - Celebrating, Empowering Women
Dear friends and family,
March 8 was this year’s International Women’s Day. I have misgivings about such holidays. Here in Israel-Palestine, as everywhere, women are integral to every aspect of life in this society. Here, women run companies. Women create products. Women support families. Women manage households. Women grow crops. Women go to school. Women teach. Women work for the government. Women are in government. In light of this, and in light of millennia of patriarchy here and elsewhere, it seems problematic to pick one day to celebrate women. Isn’t every day women’s day? And will a day of celebration do anything to offset the oppressive systems that govern so much of women’s lives?
A local mission partner once told me that for her, advocacy regarding the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories was a women's rights issue. She said that women are disproportionately affected by conflict and too often sidelined from political decision-making. This is very true for Israel-Palestine. There are also countless local women working on behalf of women—for peace, wholeness, justice, and hope. My celebration of International Women’s Day was an exploration of this work. I hope to continue it all year.Continue reading
A letter from Leslie Vogel serving in Guatemala
march 2015 - making connections
Dear companions in mission,
It was early in 2014 and a sizeable contingent of our audience was running late. The Guatemalan speaker on the topic, “Mining Issues in Guatemala,” was more than punctual. As the liaison and facilitator for this particular meeting, I was anxious. Thinking from my own cultural perspective that “time is money,” and aware both that our guest speaker’s organization sometimes charges US$250 per two-hour session and that he was essentially donating his time to us as a favor to a mutual friend, I was even more anxious.Continue reading
A letter from Barry and Shelly Dawson serving as Regional Liaisons for Southeast Asia, based in Thailand
march 2015 - growing future leaders in myanmar
Dear Friends and Mission Partners,
Twenty-two years ago in a remote village in northern Myanmar a baby boy named Bawi was born into a Christian home. As he grew older his parents shared stories of God’s love with him and, as he told us, “I believed that Jesus is my Savior, and He died for me. I believed from my childhood, and I decided to serve God.” Like many citizens of Myanmar whose family roots are found in isolated hamlets and rural landscapes, Bawi’s parents could not financially support him to follow his call to Christian ministry. “But, I did not give up,” he says in a tone that reveals a resilient faith. “I prayed to God, and my prayer was answered to be able to study here. Sometimes when I face difficulties, I pray to God. I know that God can do anything.”Continue reading
A letter from Tracey King-Ortega serving in Nicaragua
march 2015 - using our voices
My one-and-a-half-year old twins still don't talk. There are a few words that only a mom can decipher, but those are pretty much limited to “agua,” “ball,” and “nana” (the latter meaning a variety of things depending on context such as banana, Grandma, and time to nurse. I'm not too worried—they've got a lot stacked against them in becoming verbal; being raised in a bilingual house, twins, and younger siblings. Surprisingly, though, they are incredibly good communicators. I've taught them some sign language, which they love to use. But it’s more their sheer determination that pushes them to be understood. It has to be hard not being able to articulate exactly what you want, always having to play a guessing game to eventually get a particular book or snack. The voice is a powerful tool, something we often take for granted, yet a gift with which we can do so much.Continue reading
A letter from Cobbie and Dessa Palm serving in the Philippines
march 2015 - Yavs discerning god's will
Discerning the Will of God as a Community
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
The room becomes eerily silent as brown envelopes are handed to each candidate. Some leave their chairs, while others just stay in place with a palpable air of nervousness and excitement. In a minute or two, presumably as each candidate opens the contents of their letter, distinctive sounds and expressions explode throughout the Eco-Center at the Presbyterian Ferncliffe Retreat Camp. Quite a few squeal in joy, higher-pitched than usual voices seeking to connect with other voices. There are a number in tears. A few are over the phone, sharing the news with their loved ones. This is the final night of our Discernment Process for the Young Adult Volunteer Program, when after a few days of prayer, site presentations, conversations, each volunteer is offered a placement in one of the many sites for their year of service. It’s a very intense and intimate moment, a moment that is both a culmination of a longer application process preceding this weekend, but also one that marks a beginning.Continue reading
A letter from Chenoa Stock serving in Bolivia
march 2015 - Annual ministry report, 2014: Faces of the year
“…Jesus set his face toward Jerusalem” Luke 9:51b.
As I write this we are just entering into Holy Week. We are walking the final path of Lent—a path of reflection and meditation that, through its darkness and discoveries, leads us toward an Easter of transformation and renewal.Continue reading
A letter from Dustin and Sherri Ellington serving in Zambia
March 2015 - Living 24/7 in a culture not her own
Dodging muddy puddles at 5:30 am, Hannah attracts a lot of attention on her morning runs through the community where she lives and teaches. For one thing, she’s a woman. For another, she is white. She’s also tall—over six feet. And she’s not on foot to actually go somewhere, but just to get some exercise. How strange! By the time Hannah finishes running, the sun is up, making her skin color all the more noticeable. “Mzungu! Mzungu!” she will almost certainly hear called at her by people enthralled at the rare spotting of a “white person” in Zambia—or at least in the poor urban neighborhood where Hannah lives.
Later the call-outs become more loving and personal, as she heads to her classroom to start the day. “Teacher Hannah! Teacher Hannah!” students may squeal. Unlike the early morning shouts, with these there is real affection; they come from children who actually know the mzungu in their midst, and love her, and know that she loves them.Continue reading
A letter from Amanda Craft serving as Regional Liaison for Mexico and Guatemala and Omar Chan serving in Mexico
March 2015 - Annual Ministry Update, 2014
2014, what a year to be involved in mission!
As Lent has arrived, we have taken time for reflection and retrospection. Part of that process has led us to also remember the many works that were achieved last year as Omar and I moved into two different mission co-worker positions. Our journey to our new life and call reminds us of Paul’s time in Tyre, from Acts 21:5-6, “When our days there were ended, we left and proceeded on our journey; and all of them, with wives and children, escorted us outside the city. There we knelt down on the beach and prayed and said farewell to one another. Then we went on board the ship, and they returned home.” Our current journey in Guatemala ended as we endeavored to begin different ministries. We had to say farewell to loved ones in Guatemala to start anew along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Here are highlights from 2014:
January – Omar moved into a new PC(USA) mission co-worker position as the Facilitator for Presbyterian Border Region Outreach (PBRO). He participated in World Mission’s orientation in Louisville, Ky., with other mission co-workers training to head out to international locations.Continue reading
A letter from Kristi Van Nostran serving in El Salvador
March 2015 - Conflict and Insecurity
Caution: Graphic content
Twenty-three years after the signing of the Peace Accords that marked the official end of 12 years of armed conflict that claimed more than 75,000 Salvadoran lives, there is yet another war being fought on the streets of El Salvador, and it has become increasingly difficult to identify the "good guys" from the "bad." And the worst part about it is that innocent families, and particularly young men, are caught in the crossfire both literally and figuratively every day. While I return each evening to a comfortable home in a secure and quiet San Salvador neighborhood, many of our Salvadoran partners live in fear, under conditions of a voluntary (and sometimes gang-imposed) curfew that they haven't experienced since the civil war. Others tell us that not even during the height of the violence in the 1980s did their communities feel so dangerous!
The family of my colleague, Doris, lives in a barrio of Cuscatancingo, a municipality just outside the San Salvador city limits—less than five miles from where I live. Theirs is an example of a community that has ping-ponged between gang and National Civil Police (PNC) control over the last year. We used to visit on Sundays and join Niña Angela for an afternoon treat of chilate (a simple corn-based hot drink flavored with allspice) and nuegados (fried yucca dumplings in sugar cane syrup), but I haven't been to visit Doris' mother at her home in over a year because of the situation of insecurity.Continue reading
A letter from Dennis Smith in the U.S., on Interpretation Assignment from Argentina
March 21, 2015 - Traditions and Progress
Our scheduled six-month sojourn in the U.S. is now at eight months and counting. It now looks like we’ll be here until June!
One of our goals for this sojourn in the U.S. was for Maribel to be naturalized as a U.S. citizen. Unfortunately, in our first six months here we received contradictory advice from official sources and so lost a good deal of time. Maribel is happy to report that now, finally, she is moving quickly through the process. She has had her “biometric” appointment (that’s what they call fingerprinting these days!) and is studying for her citizenship exam and interview scheduled for April 7. Then she’ll be sworn in as a new U.S. citizen and process her new passport. We’re anxious to get back to Buenos Aires!
We’re thankful that we were able to spend Christmas with family. I’m deeply grateful that I was able to accompany my brother in the last days of his battle with cancer, and then support my sister-in-law in making the necessary final arrangements.
We’ve also been able to renew friendships with many of our supporting churches. We’ve gallivanted from Oregon to Texas to Pennsylvania and have more church visits scheduled for April and May. Special thanks to friends at Highland Presbyterian Church in Lancaster, Pa., for loaning us a car through the end of April! How generous all of our supporting churches have been with their hospitality, and how encouraging it has been to be able to share our passion for God’s mission from their pulpits, in their Christian Education classes, breaking bread together with mission committees, and discussing mission partnerships with pastors. We are in conversation with three churches that are thinking about taking mission study tours to the Southern Cone in 2016. Let me know if you want to tag along!Continue reading
A letter from John McCall serving in Taiwan
Spring 2015 - THE ARTIST GOD
One of my major goals in my teaching here is to help my students and fellow pastors reclaim the imagination with which God has gifted them. Often their earlier educational experience has not encouraged these seminary students and pastors to dream and ponder and wonder.
So another faculty colleague of mine at Taiwan Seminary in Taipei and I decided to host a conference called “Serving the Artist God with Imagination in the Parish.” Our goal was not to shape painters and photographers and musicians (although if this happened, it would also be wonderful), but to help local pastors see and hear in a new way. Jesus seems to care a great deal about the way we see and hear. He is especially attentive to those who seem to think they can see clearly but are really blind. And he often asks, “Do you have ears, but fail to hear?”
In that beautiful story in chapter nine of John’s Gospel we see a man born blind who sees more and more clearly, and we see those in the center of religious power who become more and more blind to the grace in their midst.
God sets us in the midst of a marvelous world with geckos that sing in southern Taiwan and are mute in northern Taiwan. From our campus we see the crested serpent eagle soaring high above us and from that high distance can see a snake in the grass. We hear the unique call of the five-color bird that sings without opening its mouth. On the subway we see a variety of faces and ages and shapes and sizes. If we look, we can see Christ in these faces.Continue reading
A letter from Mary Nebelsick in the U.S., on Interpretation Assignment from the Philippines
March 2015 - Teaching So They Can Teach
Paul and I have had a wonderful time during this year interpreting our ministry to churches in the United States. We’ve been staying at the Furlough Home on the Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary campus and have been busy visiting churches in Oklahoma, Missouri, Arkansas, Kentucky and Connecticut. Soon we will travel to Roanoke, Va., to meet old friends and make new ones. As an old saying goes, “Make new friends, and keep the old, one is silver and the other gold.”
While here in Louisville I’ve been reading about Presbyterian mission, especially about women in mission, and have learned incredible things. Presbyterian women have been active in mission from the 1820s onward and have gone to the ends of the earth to proclaim the peace of Christ. Some were married, yet many were not. Some went as medical doctors while others went as schoolteachers. One of the major foci of these women was the education of girls and women. By educating girls and women and teaching them to read the Bible they hoped to emancipate them from ignorance and lead them to become evangelists of biblical truth. Many of these schools became boarding schools and missionary women were soon responsible not only for educating, but also for feeding, clothing, supervising and evangelizing the girls under their care. Sometimes these schools began with two girls and sometimes with as many as six. But within 10 years of their founding most had grown and were well on their way to becoming as influential as their counterparts in the United States. Missionary women were incredibly influential in spreading the gospel through education, and Paul and I are proud to follow in their footsteps.Continue reading
A letter from Tom Goetz serving in Japan
March 2015 - Standing Up to Bullying
With each day being warmer than the last, it is easy to recall the wonderful words of Psalm 118:24 with a sense of celebration:
This is the day that the Lord hath made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.
This Scripture passage is familiar and was used by at least one cheerful TV minister seeking to extend his particular version of the good news of Jesus Christ. I selected it with a sense of joy of what has happened to Hokusei Gakuen University since my last letter. In short, Hokusei Gakuen has been the target for bullying by Japanese ultra-right-wing nationalists. We have endured fax attacks, received bomb threats, our main telephone trunk lines have been tied up, and there are smearing video blogs just a click away. For those of you who are new to this, you may be asking what wrong we have done to deserve such.
A letter from Jed and Jenny Koball serving in Peru
March 2015 - A Mountaintop Message
“Jed, follow me. We’re going to a Pachamanca.” I had no clue what Angelica was talking about. Already above 14,000 feet, we started walking higher until we reach a clearing on top of a hill, surrounded by mountain peaks in every direction. There on top of the hill the community was gathered. They had built a small igloo out of rocks. Inside the igloo a fire was roaring. Nearby they had dug a hole in the ground. Soon they would start putting the hot rocks into the bottom of the hole, and on top of the rocks they placed pieces of meat—beef, alpaca, chicken. A Pachamanca is a thanksgiving feast. On top of the meat, they put wet leaves and then more rocks followed by potatoes, corn, fava beans, and humitas, and they buried it in the earth. And then we waited.
It was only a couple months prior that I had met Angelica for the first time high up in this Andean community. I was there because a church from the U.S. was sending a mission team later in the year to work on a project together with the community. I needed to discuss the plans with Angelica, the director of a member organization of our Joining Hands partners working directly with the community. She told me that the people of the community were alpaca herders and that the pastures where the alpaca grazed were dying. The grass did not receive enough water, and the community wanted to install an irrigation system. So the church advanced funds in order to begin the project, and I said that I would return prior to the church’s arrival to see how they were progressing. A couple of months passed, and I returned to the community only to notice that they had done nothing with the irrigation project. I ask Angelica, “What happened?” I was a little upset, a little angry, a little embarrassed. I didn’t know what I was going to report to the church in the U.S. And it was at that moment that Angelica invited me to my first Pachamanca.
A letter from Nadia Ayoub serving in Ukraine
March 2015 - Prayers Answered
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and do not forget all his benefits (Psalm 103:1, 2).
My dear friends and families,
I worship the Lord for he is worthy of all praises, and I give thanks to God for he is faithful and has kept each one of you a faithful and trustworthy steward, proclaiming his love not only to your neighbors but to many as far as to the Roma people in Zakarpattia–Ukraine. Thank you so much for your unceasing prayers and support. I pray and trust that you and your family have a blessed Easter.
Over and over again I see God answering our prayers. In February I completed four years in Ukraine, 2011-2015. I was filled with joy as I reflected on what God has been doing among the Roma people and the local people in the Peterfolvo area. It was not easy, but I can see his everlasting arms carrying us through. And now we rejoice as we look for his benefits as he grants us answers for our prayers for forgiveness, healings, satisfying, renewing, works of vindication and justice for the oppressed people and many more.
Thank You and Your Family for serving God by taking His word so far from Your Home.
God is doing his work and using us a tools in other nations.during my working here in Athens i observed that there are many oppertunities to share the Gospel massage with other those do not know Jesus and we can bring them to Jesus Christ.Please prayer for me that i'm a very littel to that God is using me here in Athens Greece. God bless you.